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CPBJ Extra Blog

Trucking technology driving away needed labor?

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I recently did a big story on the national shortage of truck drivers, apparently to a disbelieving audience.

In the week that followed publication of this piece, I discussed the driver shortage idea with three different people who didn’t believe me. A friend of mine who spent most of the last 20 years as a trucking company dispatcher didn’t believe me.

I must admit the numbers don’t really add up. There’s still tens of thousands of people out of work, yet truck driving jobs paying $40,000 and up remain unfilled. The American Trucking Associations said there is a shortage of 30,000 truckers nationwide, a figure that could swell to 200,000 in a decade.

So why do people seemingly not want to drive big rigs for good money? Hold on to that thought.

Another story I read this week concerned a new smartphone application from Omnitracs that allows companies to track drivers’ movements. The technology company claims this will help employees be “safer and more productive,” Transport Topics reported.

Hmmm... That is certainly one way to look at it.

Omnitracs Tracking can pinpoint a driver’s location in real time using the phone’s GPS, street maps and satellites. The app also can monitor a driver’s speed and capture performance data for the company, Transport Topics reported.

Fleet managers can access a driver’s location and speed through a website, which enables them to give real-time updates to customers.

“Every transportation company with a mobile workforce wants to know the location and key behaviors of their drivers,” Dan Speicher, chief technology officer for Omnitracs, said in a statement.

I don’t doubt that they do, but should they be able to know that info? And at what cost are they pursuing it?

Speaking for myself, as interesting as it might be to be a cross-country truck driver, I wouldn’t want to do it knowing my every movement was being monitored via my company-issued smartphone.

The Omnitracs app also allows companies to predefine maximum speed allowed, GPS gap, over-road speed and stationary-position time limits.

“Stationary-position time limits?” Does that mean if I have that extra cup of coffee inside the diner, my truck is going to lock me out? Or does Siri simply order me to get the wheels rolling?

It all seems a little too Big Brother to me. And I think the kinds of folks who would make great truck drivers are probably a little turned off as well.

Maybe that’s the reason 20,000 trucking jobs are unfilled.

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